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InterviewsBelieving In Credo

Posted on Thursday, May 17 2007 @ 21:58:52 CDT by Duncan Glenday
Progressive Rock

Imagine a polished, modern-day, brilliantly produced version of Fish-era Marillion - and you have Credo. Their songs are well written, the powerful emotions are very real, and their musicianship is a pleasure to hear. This is music with a purpose.

If you read the prog magazines regularly you've probably seen Credo mentioned many times recently - yet for most of us, they're just a name on the Brit prog scene. So Sea Of Tranquility's Duncan Glenday caught up with singer Mark Colton and asked - among other things - why the heck it took them 13 years to release their second album! Colton, now recovering from a serious recent illness, discusses the new record in intense detail. Click here to see our review of Credo's Rhetoric.

Sea Of Tranquility - Duncan Glenday: How familiar are you with the Sea Of Tranquility webzine?

Credo - Mark Colton: Well I view it most days - I tend not to contribute, I feel a little uncomfortable generally as a musician commenting on others' efforts.

SoT: For those readers not yet familiar with Credo - can you give us a sort of one- or two-sentence summary of the band?

MC: Blimey, nice easy start there then, is that one of my sentences? [Laughs] Well in simple terms we are a band with a history that goes back around 35 years. The last 15 years or so as Credo, our sound is similar to many of the great UK Neo Prog bands of the early 80's. Not as plagiarism or tribute but purely down to the fact we are the same ages as those guys and grew up listening to and absorbing the same influences.

SoT: As you say - you guys have been around for a very long time - but haven't released much in that time … tell us about that?

MC: We've been around in various forms for a long time - Credo really came into being in 1992. Our first album, Field Of Vision was released in 1994 on Cyclops and pretty much reflects our abilities, financial situation and time constraints at that point. I am fiercely proud of the album, but on reflection I know the performances, production and overall package could have been better.

Our second album Rhetoric, and thanks for the glowing review Duncan, took a long time to come out, and I know the whole story could probably fill your pages, but the highlights, as it were, are that we lost Mik Stovoldt (- the keyboard player and lyricist on Field Of Vision - very early after the first album. We replaced him with Mike Varty, of Shadowland, Janison Edge, Landmarq, and the Mick Pointer Script Band.

That gave the line up fresh impetus, and we believed that it gave the songs on Field Of Vision fresh legs, so we carried on supporting that as we introduced the new songs into the set. There were very early - and different - versions of "The Letter", "Turn the Gun" and a very complete version of "Skintrade" being played live as early as '96 or '97.

We aren't pro musicians and we have to pay our mortgages so we all have day jobs. Families grew, people moved, and we continued to write what would become Rhetoric.

We then had a run of desperate luck when Mike had an accident and fractured his skull, then our drummer Paul Clarke left, and we couldn't replace him for close to 16 months. We had some very high profile name drummers approach us, but we knew what we wanted and we found that in Martin Meads.

When we'd finished writing the album, around '99 / 2000 I had the most awful luck, some of your readers will know this already, but here goes, I became seriously ill and, to date, have had four major operations, resulting in me having a large section of my colon removed. There were serious complications during the first two ops which nearly finished me off, so recording my bits against the background of that was very difficult.

SoT: In my review described Credo's music as "neo" - and you alluded to that earlier, as well. Yet for whatever reason, a lot of fans are critical of any music given that label. What are your feelings about the neo sub-genre of music?

MC: I don't really care to much what other people say about it, there are so many non-prog genres out there that I don't like, but I wouldn't criticize people for liking those - it all feels a bit snobbish to me to be critical of a genre, which I guess has been the most universally successful genre of prog in the last 30 years. Maybe that's what some don't like. As for me, I never set out wanting to or intending to sound like other bands, I just play what I like, I play with musicians whose style and ability I enjoy and whose friendship I appreciate. I enjoy music from many so called sub genres of Prog, but there are also some others I just don't get! I like my songs to have tunes, melodies, I don't always find that in some Prog, I know this will alienate some people but, actually I had better not say it. No, sod it! There's more to music than musical aptitude or bizarre time signatures! I get on well with Nick Barrett of Pendragon, and we were having a conversation a couple of days ago and like he said, maybe some people would appreciate our music more if it was 5 blokes hitting biscuit tins with hammers in different time signatures!

We've had a really good cross section of an audience at shows recently from students to grandparents and they all enjoy what we do and bring more people when they come to the next show. One review said Rhetoric was prog you could play your mum or girlfriend. If that's wrong then I guess we're guilty!

SoT: [Laughs] Also - in my review - I also remarked on the purpose behind the lyrics of some of the songs … but as far as I'm aware, Rhetoric isn't a concept or a strongly themed piece is it?

MC: It was never intended as a concept album, but as the lyrics on it were written over a 25 year period I guess they do reflect aspects and periods of my life, interests, values etc. I guess that is where some of the misconceptions about it being a concept album come from. The songs are strongly themed, you're right. As for the songs:

"Skintrade" Was inspired by a conversation with a then girlfriend, who announced one night she wanted to be in Porn Films! What do you say to that? It's a no win situation! Her view was she wouldn't be the one being exploited, it would be the people buying the magazines - to do what ever it is people do with that sort of literature! Just got me round to thinking one day, what makes people want to do that sort of thing.

Most of the story is editorial license and doesn't reflect on her at all, but that was the seed for the song.

"Turn The Gun" I was looking to write a sequel, or prequel, to "Kindness" from the first Credo album. I'd love to play the two songs together live at some point.

SoT: That's the one about a shooting - from the shooter's perspective?

MC: I love the power and intensity of this song, without being overly heavy it captures the insanity and claustrophobia that the cult of celebrity has bought to the modern world.

"From The Cradle..." Typical of my lyric writing I guess, bleeding heart poet time, but I think it is as good as anything I have ever written.

It feels that most people of our age seem to be on second marriages, or despising the relationships they're in, and they spend far too much time thinking about what might have been. Again it's a fictional person in the song but is based on so many people who have touched my life in the last thirty years. There are some pretty vivid images in the song relating to the feeling you get when you return to your old hometown and the places you always used to go, it doesn't matter how much they have changed, the ghosts of yesterday still hang heavily in the air! Listen out for the great backing vocals from Sam Collins (formerly Sue Element), from Janison Edge, in the end passage. Again - it's hairs on the back of your neck time!

"...To The Grave" Is a continuation of the previous song and deals with the same story from the perspective of the other partner, who doesn't view that relationship through quite the same rose tinted glasses!!! There are always two sides to every story, and this one details the anger and frustration of someone who gave everything they could, but was made to feel guilty that they couldn't fulfill the aspirations of a demanding partner, and ended up being painted as the villain of the whole affair, and can't quite believe the audacity of the other person.

There's a great instrumental interlude at the end of the song, with a great rhythm that sounds simple it but challenges every "air drummer" who's ever had a go at it!

A true story? Well maybe! We meet the protagonists again on the last song on the album!

"Too Late..." The first part of a duo of songs that was inspired by the poems written in the trenches during the First World War. The power, emotion and majesty of those poets moved me as much as any song I have ever heard.

When I first heard the music the swagger, tension and power of the chorus demanded a lyric that matched it for power and simplicity, there are any number of vocals on that track which seem to perfectly capture the chaos and fear that people would have experienced when they would have gone 'Over The Top'.

Great violin from Mike on the second verse that blew us all away the first time we heard it.

The verse allows the lyric to breathe and conjure even more poignant images before we hit the instrumental section that leads to "...To Say Good Bye".

The closing section of that song which us in a different direction and highlights the vocals of Jim and Mike as we take the song to the end. The end section works wonderfully well live and every time we have played the two pieces together the audience has gone mad!!!

SoT: Whoah - backup ... the last few songs you spoke about - tell us about the way you made 2 songs out of what I would have called one song - with From The Cradle..." and "...To The Grave? And same thing with "Too Late..." and "...To Say Goodbye"..?

MC: Well, "Cradle" was originally a song on its own right with the title "Cradle To The Grave" and was played on its own during shows in 1999, a reviewer claimed it was our "Kayleigh". The "To The Grave" was a separate lyric, but always about the same situation. person, couple ... so we decided to see if it would work together, and it did. So we used the name for the whole piece. The other reason was, "From The Cradle" is quite a gentle, almost romantic notion, "To The Grave" is angry and reflects the darkness of the title….

If you want to hear the song in it's original form, then program your player to play them in the order they are on the album, and then play the last track "Seems like Yesterday".

"Too late….." and "….To Say Goodbye" is a different reason - the song had no title right up until we briefed the art work. It's very obviously two separate pieces of music which work well together, and rather than trying to think of two titles we split the working title. Sorry that's not overly technical or "prog", but it's true!

Credo at the Summers End Festival, 2006

SoT: Sorry to intrerrupt there - tell us more about the rest of the songs...

MC: Well "The Game" is very interesting from my perspective, as the main body of the lyric was written when I was 16 or 17 while some of it has lyrics that were completed during the recording! It's a lyric that deals with loves young dream going horribly horribly wrong, and the names have been changed to protect the not so innocent!

Another true story? You may think that, I couldn't possibly comment!!!

There are some great light and shade moments on the track, the main guitar solo is amazing and the final keyboard/vocal section is my favorite part of the whole album.

Seems Like Yesterday Well as I said the couple from Cradle to the Grave appear in the last number again, and by this point, there is a degree of reflection and sorrow from both partners who finally get the opportunity to say all the things they really wanted to say.

"The Letter" Is the oldest song on the album, we played it live at the Field Of Vision launch party, again inspired by the end of an unsatisfactory relationship and as angry as it gets! A particular live favourite that we have now recorded three times. This is the only version that has ever captured the anger, frustration and pain that you can experience when your whole fragile world collapses due to the actions of someone else.

SoT: Yeah - "The Letter" is an interesting one, which I described as "...starts softly - with someone writing a letter to a lover, and as the writer's anger builds, the letter morphs into a song (i.e. the one you're listening to) - ending in a wall of sound expressing how hurtful the lies have been". How would you have described it?

MC: Well, to be truthful I think you've pretty much nailed it!

The song itself is based on a true story, and we played it for the first time at the launch party for Field Of Vision. It's basically the conversation that I had with a girl who was dumping me. The first two verses are pretty much word for word what she said to me, and I remember at the time thinking what great syncopation and syntax she was using and how well it flowed! She was half German and half Argentine, and English wasn't her natural language - but it felt like real poetry as she said it.

I was totally devastated at the time, she really broke my heart, but there was that real resonance in what she'd said. I just got back in the car - having driven 200 plus miles to see her and wrote those lyrics in the car.

The intro was based on the way she rationalized her reasons for splitting with me to our mutual friends, making comments about "The Letter" which I allegedly had written and sent her. Guess what? No letter! Hence You Lied, You Lied / You Lied..

Like I say, we played it for the first time a couple of weeks later. She was at the show, as it was the launch party for the Field Of Vision album. I don't think she appreciated it, but then as she never spoke to me again after that night I'll never know for sure...

The last bit of the song, when the tempo builds up, was just a complete outpouring of the anger I felt and the fact that there was nothing I could do to try and save the situation. Not only was she splitting with me, but she was also moving to Germany - and it was just a totally emotional outpouring of all of the anger, bitterness, and frustration that had built up in me.

I'm astounded at the response the song gets live - I guess it is something that everyone can relate with. The "You lied" section is so powerful live, there have been nights when we've ended the song and there's complete silence for a couple of seconds - and then people always respond brilliantly.

From a lyrical perspective it contains my favorite line that I have ever written, and again encapsulates how she made me feel: The last time you said you loved me / Was the first time that you lied.

SoT: And with all those songs - what's your favorite moment on Rhetoric?

MC: I love the way the guitar solo changes during "From The Cradle…" and the guitar solo on "The Game", and screaming "You lied, You lied, You lied" at the end of "The Letter". But my favorite moment is at the end of "The Game" where Mike plays the Piano outro and I do the tie the braid upon your finger / you wear my scent on your face... bit. That actually happened - there's a girl somewhere who would probably feel very uncomfortable if she heard that bit!

SoT: What keeps you guys busy from day to day, when you aren't making music with Credo?

MC: Well, we all have day jobs, and mortgages and family - and getting fit again has pre occupied me over the last few years. But from a musical perspective I occasionally work with my old band playing the odd show, Mike plays in Shadowland, Janison Edge, Landmarq and with Mick Pointer's Script For A Jesters Tear band, and Martin is drumming most nights with other bands.

SoT: Mark, we haven't heard much about Credo here in the USA - in fact I wouldn't have been as aware of you if it hadn't been for our mutual friend Sara Austin. Do you have any plans to actively market your music here?

MC: Well, I certainly hope so, Rhetoric was really a step back into the unknown for us. The response we've had has totally blown us away, and the next album will see us raising the profile even more. Our profile in the UK is at a level we could only have dreamt about 2 years ago, and we should be playing some mainland European dates later this year and next.

SoT: Oh you're playing in Europe? What's the possibility of you playing in the USA - are you actively pursuing opportunities?

MC: Yes we are - we're currently talking to a couple of guys. I can't really give anymore details at the moment, but as soon as we can I'll let you know!

SoT: And speaking of geography - where's Credo the most popular, and where do most of your sales come from?

MC: Well I guess it's the UK. We played 30 shows in the UK to support Rhetoric, Major Neo Prog acts tend to play 2 - 6 shows across the UK. The audiences grew and we went from opening for bands like Arena and Kino to headlining our own prestigious shows, like "The Classic Rock Society" in Rotherham and appearing at The Summers End Festival. In terms of Units sold, we are not in the IQ/Arena/Pendragon/Magenta league, but we know we sold as many if not more albums than many of our contemporaries and definitely played to more people.

I know that the review you did generated loads of interest in the US and our myspace site has taken a lot of hits too - There are two tracks from Rhetoric on there and two from Field Of Vision

We have a great following in Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Lithuania, Czech Republic and a massive fan base in Poland. As well as sizeable followings in France, Germany, Holland etc.

In-fact over the weekend we were asked if we would sanction an Official Fan Club in Norway, which we gladly agreed to do.

SoT: Where does the name "Credo" come from?

MC: Well a number of people seem to think it was solely influenced by the song Credo by Fish - ex Marillion - on his Internal Exile album. But honestly that's more of a happy coincidence than intention. I joined the band in '91 or '92 and we didn't really have a name at that point. One day Tim, the guitarist, and I were sat in his office at home and we were playing with the Thesaurus on his PC. A number of words came up, but we liked the "look" of Credo - it's short, sort of looks interesting, it's a word that most people recognize without knowing really what it means - there's a Celtic inference in the name and Tim and Jim are both Scottish so it ticked a lot of boxes for us.

I pointed out to Tim that it was also the name of a Fish song ... we discussed it, we didn't think we'd ever get round to releasing albums and touring so we saw no problem in it. We also agreed that there was an undoubted early Marillion / Fish influence in our sound, and anyone who knew that would also get a good idea of what we might sound like. But as I say, the Fish link was only an afterthought.

Credo means "To believe". Looking at our history it seems very appropriate that a bunch of musicians our ages, with the difficulties Credo faced during the recording of Rhetoric, would have only finished the album if we truly believed...

SoT: Besides your own record - what would you say were the best albums of the past year or so? And who are your favorite musicians today, among your contemporaries?

MC: Well, I truly think Darwin's Radio are a great act, and I love their album. The Gift are great too. Next to that I really enjoyed Believe by Pendragon, and the Knights Area album. Ezra are good lads too. I caught The Reasoning a couple of weeks ago, live they were superb - and their album is good too.

SoT: What's next for Credo?

MC: Total World Domination!

No - we're currently finalizing the writing of the new album, we're planning a UK tour for later this year, and Scottish and European dates ... new album out end of this or early next year, and the very distinct possibility of a live album and DVD of the Rhetoric live show.

SoT: Well since we started talking you've been in hospital twice - we wish you the best of luck, and a continuing recovery!

MC: Thanks for your wishes - they're gratefully received. I'm happy to talk about my illness. I feel so lucky to still be here!

SoT: Well Mark, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us! The new album is certainly interesting - good luck with it, and take care.

MC: Hope we get to meet again next year!

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